Checkpoint expansion on the cards

Rizalman Hammim

8ha plot earmarked for Woodlands facility’s new wing to boost clearance

With burgeoning crossings at the Causeway and fast-evolving security challenges, the Woodlands Checkpoint here will be expanded, with a new wing set to be built at the adjacent Old Woodlands Town Centre, Today Online reported.

While exact configurations of the Immigration facilities at this new extension are still being studied, the roughly 8ha plot
earmarked for the expansion will boost clearance capacity considerably, especially when the new Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) is completed in 2019.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), in announcing plans for the expansion on Thursday, did not state whether the new wing was meant for vehicular or human traffic.

It also did not state when the extension wing would be built, but when completed, it would be the second upgrade of the checkpoint facilities at Woodlands.

The current Woodlands Checkpoint, which started operations in 1999, was the first upgrade, replacing the old Customs Complex built in the 1970s.

Daily volume, both incoming and outgoing at the checkpoint, which covers an area roughly the size of 31 football fields, has nearly tripled since then, to more than 300,000 travellers in 2015.

Congestion at the checkpoint worsened during the year-end holidays two years ago, with some motorists claiming five-hour-long jams.

The news of the expansion has been given the thumbs up by motorists who frequently travelled between Johor Baru and Singapore.

Motorists met by the New Straits Times said the expansion would hopefully reduce congestion at the checkpoint, which in turn would reduce travel time between the two cities.

Wilson Teh, a financial consultant from Singapore, said now, especially during peak hours, it would take a long time to clear the checkpoint.

“Hopefully, with the expansion, we will not have to wait too long to clear the checkpoint, which will help us save time.

“My only wish is that the Johor side of the checkpoint will also be expanded,” he said.

Hasid Sobri, 25, who rides his motorcycle to Singapore daily for work, also welcomed the move to expand the checkpoint.

But he hoped there would be an increase in the number of Immigration officers manning the checkpoint, especially at the motorcycle lanes.

“Besides expanding the checkpoint, I hope they will increase the number of Immigration officers there so that the congestions at the motorcycle lanes can be reduced further,” said Hasid, adding that there were times he had to wait for three hours to clear the checkpoint.

Meor Fazli Shah Meor Ahmad, 36, shared Hasid’s sentiments.

“More lanes and Immigration officers would mean faster
and smoother process for
motorcyclists to clear the checkpoint.

“It would save me a lot of time travelling to work,” said Meor, a jockey at the Singapore Turf Club.

Today Online reported that
the plot of land eyed for the extension was where the once-bustling Old Woodlands Town Centre sat.

Two properties at 268 and 270 Woodlands Centre Road, home to Woodlands Point Mall and the now-defunct Shaw Brothers cinema respectively, in the town centre were gazetted on Thursday for acquisition.

The two properties are located at the immediate east of the checkpoint.

ICA said since the checkpoint opened in 1999, travellers and vehicle volume at the facility had
increased, even as security threat had heightened “significantly”.

“The (checkpoint) has to be upgraded to meet growing traffic needs and ensure that Immigration clearance remains secure,” it said.

A feasibility study will be
conducted to decide the optimal design of the checkpoint’s
extension and the full extent of upgrading and redevelopment work required.

“This includes considerations on the capacity of the Woodlands Checkpoint, the overall traffic flow and upcoming developments such as the Johor Baru-Singapore RTS,” said an ICA spokesman.

The RTS, a cross-border Mass Rapid Transit system, will be linked by a high bridge between Johor and Woodlands, connecting Johor’s Bukit Chagar terminus station to Singapore’s Woodlands North terminus, and connected to the Thomson-East Coast Line.

ICA said expanding into space at the Old Woodlands Town Centre would enable upgrading works to be carried out progressively at the Woodlands checkpoint, without affecting operations there.